Oldest Known Names in the World

10 Oldest Known Names in the World

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The earliest legitimate writing systems did not emerge until around 3200 BCE, so most of human history before this time has been lost. There are thousands of ancient peoples whose names or stories we’ll never know, but this list contains some of the earliest recorded names in the world. While many of these people were kings (and one queen), the oldest known person was an accountant, who signed what were basically ancient receipts and inventory lists.

10. Yax Ehb Xook

Year Written: c.90 CE
Country of Origin:  Tikal (modern day Flores, Guatemala)
[ Writing System:  pre-Columbian Maya Script

Yax Ehb Xookphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Outside of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia/Sumeria, one of the earliest mentions of a ruler in the west comes from early period of Maya civilization. Yax Ehb Xook was the first ruler of the important and powerful city-state Tikal. He ruled much of the surrounding lowland region at the time and the city was called Yax Mutal in his honor. Yax Ehb Xook’s rule set Tikal up to dominate much of the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily for the next several centuries.

Did You Know?

Yax Ehb Xook translates to “First Step Shark.”


9. Anitta

Year Written: c.17th century BCE
Country of Origin:  Kussara, Anatolia (modern day Turkey)
[ Writing System:  Hittite Cuneiform

Anittaphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Anitta was the first Hittite ruler to write a text in the Hittite language. His name appears on a dagger as well as the Anitta text or Proclamations of Anittas, the earliest known Indo-European text. Anitta detailed the rise of the Hittite state, as well as his own exploits. The Anitta text was so important to the Hittites that it was copied several times and well-preserved. The text is also a great example of archaic writing and grammar.

Did You Know?

The Anitta text is the only known Hittite text to make reference to the god Siu-summin (“our god” or  “Our Sius”).


8. Hor-Aha

Year Written: c.3100 BCE
Country of Origin:  Abydos, Egypt (modern day El-Bayana, Sohag Governate, Egypt)
[ Writing System:  Egyptian Hieroglyphics

Hor-Ahaphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Hor-Aha is yet another early Egyptian pharaoh whose exact identity is unknown. Most scholars believe that Hor-Aha was the second ruler of Ancient Egypt’s First Dynasty and Narmer’s successor and possibly his son. Others think that Hor-Aha was actually Menes, which conflicts with the theory that Narmer could have also been Menes.

Regardless of his true identity, Hor-Aha was important and his name appears on many artifacts. Hor-Aha’s tomb has also been discovered, which provides additional evidence for his existence.

Did You Know?

Hor-Aha was the first Ancient Egyptian pharaoh to have members of the royal household buried in his tomb as the earliest known retainer sacrifices in Egypt.


7. Neithhotep

Year Written: c.3150 to 3125 BCE
Country of Origin:  Abydos, Egypt (modern day El-Bayana, Sohag Governate, Egypt)
[ Writing System:  Egyptian Hieroglyphics

Neithhotepphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Neithhotep is the earliest named woman in history, who held a position of great importance in Ancient Egypt. She was the queen consort of either Narmer or his successor Hor-Aha. While scholars don’t know for sure who Neithhotep was married to, they do know that she was very important because of the massive size of her tomb and the fact that her name is written with royal serekh. In fact, initially researchers thought Neithhotep was an unknown king because of her huge tomb.

Did You Know?

Along with Queen Meritneith, Neithhotep is the only Ancient Egyptian woman whose name is written with a serekh and whose tomb has its own cultic enclosure.


6. Narmer

Year Written: c.3150 to 3100 BCE
Country of Origin:  Nekhen, Egypt (modern day Aswan Governate, Egypt)
[ Writing System:  Egyptian Hieroglyphics

Narmerphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Narmer was the successor to either Ka or Scorpion II, the earliest predynastic kings of Egypt. Considered the founder of the First Dynasty, Narmer is widely credited with unifying Upper and Lower Egypt to become the first true pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.

Narmer’s name has been found all over various artifacts, most notably the Narmer Palette. Not only does the palette contain some of the earliest Egyptian hieroglyphics, but it also clearly depicts Narmer as a king.

Did You Know?

Along with Queen Meritneith, Neithhotep is the only Ancient Egyptian woman whose name is written with a serekh and whose tomb has its own cultic enclosure.


5. Scorpion II

Year Written: c.3200 to 3000 BCE
Country of Origin:  Nekhen, Egypt (modern day Aswan Governate, Egypt)
[ Writing System:  Egyptian Hieroglyphics

Scorpion IIphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Like all of the earliest Egyptian pharaohs, the details and exact identity of Scopion II or King Scorpion’s life are hotly contested. There are many conflicting theories over Scorpion II’s identity. Some scholars believe Scorpion II was another name for Narmer, while others believe he is the ruler who came after Ka and before Narmer.

There is another theory that suggests Scorpion II was a rival ruler of Ka and Narmer. Regardless of who he actually was, Scorpion II’s name appears on several artifacts from Egypt’s predynastic period.

Did You Know?

While there are numerous artifacts supporting Scorpion II’s rule and existence, his tomb exact burial place is unknown, but there are two tombs – one in Umm el-Qa’ab (close to Abydos) and another in Hierakonpolis (Nekhen) – that are strong contenders.


4. Ka

Year Written: c.3200 BCE
Country of Origin:  Abydos, Egypt (modern day El-Bayana, Sohag Governate, Egypt)
[ Writing System:  Egyptian Hieroglyphics

Kaphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Ka or Sekhen is another predynastic Egyptian pharaoh, who may have been Iry-Hor’s successor. It is believed that Ka reigned sometime during the first half of the 32nd century BCE. Ka would have ruled from Thinis, the first capital of city of the earliest Egyptian kings, which has not yet been uncovered.

Ka’s tomb was first discovered in 1902 and several artifacts, including flint knife fragments and pottery,  bearing Ka’s name have been found over the years.

Did You Know?

Ka was the first Egyptian ruler to use a serekh, a box-shaped symbol that goes around a name to indicated kingship.


3. Iry-Hor

Year Written: c.3200 BCE
Country of Origin:  Abydos, Egypt (modern day El-Bayana, Sohag Governate, Egypt)
[ Writing System:  Egyptian Hieroglyphics

Iry-Horphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Iry-Hor is the name of a mysterious predynatic pharaoh (he may have been the very first true king of the region) whose existence has been challenged despite the excavation of his tomb. The reason for the doubt over Iry-Hor’s significance is because his name is written in archaic hieroglyphics without a  serekh. However, more excavations in Abydos and the discovery of another inscription of Iry-Hor’s name in 2012 confirms that he actually existed.

Did You Know?

Iry-Hor’s tomb has similar dimensions to Ka and Narmer, two of the earliest confirmed Egyptian pharaohs, which strongly supports the belief that Iry-Hor was also a pharaoh.


2. Gal-Sal and Slaves

Year Written: c.3200 to 3100 BCE
Country of Origin:  Ancient Sumer (modern day southern Iraq)
[ Writing System:  pre-Cuneiform archaic Sumerian

Gal-Sal and His Slavesphoto source: cdli.ucla.edu

Not much is known publicly about the Sumerian clay tablet containing three names: Gal-Sal and two slaves Enpap-x and Sukkalgir. Gal-Sal is typically only mentioned as a contender to Kushim for oldest known name. The tablet with Gal-Sal and his slaves names does come from the same time period as Kushims’ and features the same pre-Cuneiform script.

Did You Know?

Researchers know that Gal-Sal was most likely the owner of Enpap-x and Sukkalgir because their names are next to the symbols for male slave and female slave.


1. Kushim

Year Written: c.3400 to 3000 BCE
Country of Origin:  Ancient Sumer (modern day southern Iraq)
[ Writing System:  pre-Cuneiform (Uruk III) archaic Sumerian

photo source: cdli.ucla.edu

While there is some debate on who is the oldest named person on record, for the most part, many researchers agree that Kushim is the oldest known name in the world, dating back to around 3400 to 3000 BCE. Surprisingly, Kushim wasn’t a king or ruler, they were an account. All of the tablets baring Kushim’s name appear to be accounting reports for various goods like barley.

Did You Know?

Kushim’s name is mentioned in 18 tablets, and some researchers initially believed “Kushim” was a job title. However, it’s now widely accepted that Kushim was an individual person.


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